Monday, 30 August 2010

The SNP - Custodians of the Scottish Heart

Scotland's future will be at the heart of the campaign for the 2011 elections.

First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond has said that if opposition parties block a referendum on independence he will put Scotland's future at the heart of the 2011 elections.

Speaking to the Sunday Express Mr Salmond said:

“I’ve always said that if the other parties don’t pass the bill – and that doesn’t look likely now, does it? – the people will have their say as to whether they want that opportunity in the election next year.
“People can take the decision to force the issue.

“It will be a major, perhaps dominating issue, in the election, not because it is about not giving the people a say in their own future, which is very important, but because we will be making the link to the economic crisis and saying if we have economic and financial powers then we can deal, not with all, but with the majority of this economic problem, which otherwise we have to deal with within a fixed budget.”
Discussing the cuts the scottish budget is set to face from Westminster and the impact they will have the First Minister added:

“Everybody understands we are moving into financial circumstances the like of which we have never seen before, but we can say we have the answer to part of this problem. The other parties don’t.

“In the case of the Tories and Liberals, they are the ones who are proposing the cuts, in the case of Labour they don’t have the slightest idea what to do about them.

“Over the course of this summer Labour have moved from 15 points in the polls ahead to level pegging. The effect of the General Election is wearing off, and people are starting to turn their mind to the next election. The problem with Labour is they have got no Scottish heart and people know that – where is the Scottish heart?”

Scotland's independence is at the heart of Scotland's Future

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A Party Political Broadcast by Mebyon Kernow - The Party for Cornwall

Keeping it Together

Keep Cornwall whole!

The River Tamar, "one of the oldest borders in Europe" (picture Michael Parry)
One of the planks of the coalition government’s platform is to reduce the number of members of the House of Commons and redraw the boundaries so that each constituency has roughly the same number of voters.  At present, the largest constituency – the Isle of Wight – has around 5 times the number of the smallest, Na H-Eileanan An Iar (the Western Isles).
Three seats in the north of Scotland will be spared this equalisation – they have large geographical areas already (and two of them have potentially troublesome Liberal Democrat MPs) – but otherwise the Boundary Commission will equalise remorselessly on.
But there is a reason other than geography why different seats are of different sizes, namely identity.  One of the crucial building blocks of democracy is not only that the citizens must be represented, but that they must be represented in ways that they themselves can understand.
Imagine if, rather than geographically, we were all represented in the House of Commons alphabetically, with MPs elected by all the people with surnames beginning with A, with B, with C and so on.  Who would suppose that such MPs could meaningfully represent the people who voted for them?  What would the voters have in common?  The self-identification of the citizens matters.
However, citizens do not neatly imagine themselves into equally-sized groupings, which makes drawing up realistic parliamentary constituencies hard.  Trade-offs have to be made between identity and size.  Most of the city of Cambridge, for example, is in the Cambridge constituency, but there is one ward of the city that spills over into neighbouring Cambridgeshire South, a constituency that stretches 10 miles into the countryside rather than 2 miles into the centre of town.
The determination of the government to reduce the disparities in size is going to make the disparities in identity worse.  In Cornwall, for example, there is concern that a constituency will be created that straddles the border with Devon: despite “the Tamar being one of the oldest borders in Europe” (say the campaigners).
Multi-member parliamentary constituencies could reduce the scale of this problem considerably, as they would be much more tolerant of different sizes of community, but that idea has been specifically excluded by the coalition government.  The only two electoral systems on offer in the referendum next spring both rely on single member constituencies.
This conflict between equality of the citizens – making all the constituencies the same size – and respecting their identities will occur again and again as the boundaries are redrawn.  Cornwall today is merely the start of something big.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Oil on Troubled Waters

Major new oil find in North Sea

Following on from reports today (Friday) that a ‘major’ discovery of oil in the North Sea, Aberdeen North MSP Brian Adam has renewed Prof. Josef Stiglitz call for an Oil Fund. The Nobel Prize winner and former Chief Economist of the World Bank, said on BBC Scotland’s Newsnight programme on Tuesday (24th August) that the UK had “squandered" it's oil wealth and that it is now "imperative" an oil fund is established to secure the wealth that remains under the North Sea for future generations.

The discovery, made by German firm Wintershall yesterday, of up to 100 million barrels of oil would equate to, at today’s oil prize, to over $7billion. This comes just a few short months since the last major discovery in Scottish waters in June, when up to 300 million barrels were discovered by EnCore Oil.

Commenting, SNP Brian Adam said:

“The oil industry has contributed a great deal to Scotland, especially in Aberdeen, and it’s showing no sign of drying up despite the pessimistic view taken by the London Parties in the 70’s, which still continues today.

“Over the course of the summer we have seen two major discoveries in North Sea, plus the GERS report which showed that with independence Scotland would see a budget surplus of over £1 Billion, whilst the UK struggles with a mammoth £50 Billion deficit. Even the most hardened unionist cannot deny that the financial case for independence couldn’t be any stronger.

“On Tuesday, Professor Stiglitz said that the SNP was “absolutely right” on the need for an Oil Fund, the UK Government has ‘squandered’ Scotland’s oil, that current situation is unsustainable and that an Oil Fund was now “imperative”.

“The unionist parties must put aside their petty party politics and start putting the interest of Scotland, and it’s people, first before it’s too late.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Kernow - United and Inviolate

Philip Hosking writes on the ever-present threats to Cornwall

Now that one potential threat to Cornwall's territorial integrity has been seen off -Overwhelming support for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP- time to focus all attention on the remaining menace. 

The Lib Con administration fully intends to reduce and regularise the number of parliamentary constituencies within the UK. Whilst the historic frontiers of Scotland and Wales will be respected Cornwall's is under serious threat with a proposed part Cornwall part Devonshire constituency on the cards. 

If we want to maintain and strengthen Cornwall's case for greater self-government this must be resisted at all costs. The only region for Cornwall is Cornwall the Tamar being one of the oldest borders in Europe. The creation of a Devonwall constituency will only strengthen the case for a Devonwall or Plymouth city region. As in the past when ever Cornwall is coupled with Devonshire or the wider South West our voice is drowned out and our specific needs ignored. It is only after the statistical separation of Cornwall and Devon that Kernow qualified for Objective One funding from the European Union. 

Today I received the following invitation which people should feel free to circulate: 

I am sure you will have heard of the proposals to establish at least one cross-border parliamentary constituency linking Cornwall and Devonshire, and the concerns these have engendered. The proposals are embodied in the Parliamentary Voting and Consituencies Bill which is due to have its second reading on 6 September.

A Keep Cornwall Whole campaign has been initated to oppose the proposals, and this will be holding an open meeting in the Grenville Room, New County Hall Truro, on 31 August commencing at 19-00. This is a most important issue for those who value the integrity of Cornwall and care for her unique status.

Letters to Nick Clegg and to Cornish MPs will do no harm!

Equally a dedicated website is up and running with more arguments for why we should - Keep Cornwall WholeIf you do anything for Kernow join this campaign!

Labour PPC Jude Robinson has also created the following petition: No to the Devonwall boundary change

"We all know that the conquest and later repressions of Cornwall involved the use of force. But how many realize (in the new international climate of toleration of minorities and respect for small nations) that ongoing acts of latter day neo-colonialism by Westminster and Whitehall constitute a form of permanent and continuing State aggression?
These covert activities need exposing simply because when a people become engaged in the struggle for a greater degree of self-determination they need to be able to justify why it is they offerresistance to the autocratic forces of centralized control.
There is no doubt that, left to its own devices, Cornwall would find a more productive balance between centralisation and autonomy.
However, dark forces work surreptitiously to stonewall such an event. This hard hitting and often controversial book sets out to explain what the forces of centralization have done in the past and,more importantly, reveals what is being done behind closed doors today."

- John Angarrack

Click'ee here to see Wasson

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A New President for Plaid Cymru

MEP becomes Plaid's First Woman President

Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans has been elected unopposed as President of the party. Wales’ longest serving member of the European Parliament will take over from Dafydd Iwan, who is stepping down in September. In recent years the role of party president has provided the party with an important link with grassroots members.
Jill Evans will become the party’s first ever woman president, having served as Plaid's vice president since 2004. She will take over in her new role at Plaid's annual conference at Aberystwyth in September.
Jill Evans said,
“I would like to thank the members of Plaid Cymru for placing their trust in me. The party has made massive strides over the last few years .
"We are entering a very exciting time for Plaid and for Wales. The party is reaching ever higher standards of professionalism and it is important that the new President strengthens the link between our grassroot members, the leadership and the staff.
"As Plaid evolves into a radical party of Government, this link is vital for us to grow and achieve our ultimate goals.
"The President is an important member of the Plaid Cymru team. My aim is to build on the excellent work done by Dafydd Iwan and support and motivate Plaid Cymru's greatest asset - its membership."
Jill Evans will take over as President of Plaid Cymru on Saturday 11th September 2010 immediately following Dafydd Iwan’s conference speech.
Jill Evans was born in the Rhondda in 1959 where she still lives. Jill attended University in Aberystwyth and then worked as a Research Assistant at the former Polytechnic of Wales where she gained her M.Phil. Degree.
She worked for the National Federation of Women's Institutes in Wales for six years before taking up a post as Wales Regional Organiser for CHILD - The National Infertility Support Network.
Jill Evans was a councillor for seven years - on the former Rhondda Borough and Mid Glamorgan County Councils and then Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council.
She was elected as Plaid Cymru's Alternate Member of the Committee of the Regions in 1993 and served for four years, and was also the party's representative on the European Free Alliance, working with Plaid Cymru's sister parties throughout the continent.
Jill was Chair of Plaid Cymru between 1994 and 1996. In June 1999 she was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for Wales.
Jill Evans was re-elected to the European Parliament in 2009 and is a member of the Green / European Free Alliance (EFA) Group - the fourth largest group in the Parliament.
She is the President of EFA, and first Vice-President of the Greens/EFA Group in the EP. Jill also deputises on the Delegation for Relations with the Palestine Legislative Council.
She is a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Delegation for relations with Iraq. She deputises on the Agriculture Committee.

Celtic Nations' Freedom Struggle Links



Celtic Legacy

There was a time on this earth when the Celtic people ruled over most of Europe, from the far flung British Isles, to Spain, Gaul, Italy and even parts of Turkey. Today the descendants of the Celts are forced into submission by every government. Very few modern Celts can say that they live in freedom. Yet at the same time there are resistance movements in every one of the recognized seven European Celtic nations; Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany and Galicia. At present Scotland, Wales,the Isle of Man, Cornwall, and 6 counties of Ireland are under the oppressive thumb of the British state while Brittany is part of the Fifth Republic of France and Galicia shares the fate of the Basque people in Spain.

Brehon Law Code
Celtic Chariot
Dying Gaul
Gallic Wars 
List of the Celtic Tribes
Vercingetorix vs. Caesar

Languages of the Celts

The way to true freedom is to not be dependent on the language and cultural norms of the country that is dominant. The Celtic language was one of the original elements that used to hold the Celts together. In time the languages of the Celts have come close to extinction time and time again. Unfortunately the original Celtic language of the Galicians has been lost and Galician is now a Romance language, more akin to Latin than to the tongue of the Gaels. If you are interested in learning any of the languages I recommend you find a native speaker of the language and learn via that medium, but if you are unable to find someone and are forced to learn online then these links will give at least a beginning introduction into the language. 

Galician Gaeilge-Irish Gaelic
Gaidhlig-Scottish Gaelic

Autonomy and Devolution

In the past few months the question of Devolution in the occupied 6 counties of Ireland, Scotland and Wales has come up partly thanks to the "New Labour Party". At the same time Galicia is an autonomous region in Spain and the Isle of Man is considered a protectorate of the UK. But in reality no matter what name is given to these occupied countries, there is no choice that is right for the people but indepedence. Both autonomy and devolution offer a limited amount of freedom to the people, but it is all a mask for the government still has the controlling say, much akin to the "reservations" that the US government have set up for the American Indian nations. What is freedom if it is dependent on your oppressor for any limited powers? Our Celtic heritage in the British Isles should not give in to the dictates of the Parliament at Westminster and our Galician cousins should not give in to the power of Madrid. 

"Northern Ireland" Devolution Page
Official Scottish Devolution Page
 Welsh Devolution Page
English Devolution Page
Webpage of the Isle of Man
Official Government Webpage of the Autonomous Region of Galicia

The North of Ireland

After the 1921 Partition of Ireland the Counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone  were kept within the dominion of the United Kingdom. Until 1950 there was a continued state of warfare by the Republican population of the 6 counties in the effort to reunite the 6 with the rest of Ireland. However in the early 1950's support for the armed rebellion faded and along with the IRA. In 1969 when the new era of  struggle began with the beating of Human Rights Activists by the RUC and Loyalist groups. Recently there was a  breakthrough in the attempt to resolve the violence, an accord  known as the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Unfortunately the Unionist political groups are unwilling to live up to the letter of the accord in favor of their own personal political ambitions. The anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement has come and gone, and still no progress has been made in the situation in the North of Ireland. Without full cooperation of all parties involved, peace will still elude everyone. 

Fire In The North: A History of the Violence in the North of Ireland. Written by the Web Master
Full text of the Good Friday Agreement
Indepth look at the Orange Order
Indepth look at the Republican Paramilitaries
More Republican Pages
Unionists and Loyalists
Would you want THIS in your neighborhood? 

The Future of the Celtic people

Today the Celtic people are no longer limited to Europe but have travelled the world and have set up some of the finest governments in the world. The Celtic people in Europe now have a bright future ahead if only the will is there. In these days of the European Union the colonial attitudes of the UK, France and Spain will not be able to continue. The opportunity has presented itself for all and every Celtic nation to declare its independence. When this happens the Celts of the world must unite in collaboration  and help one another  to achieve their rights. These links will give you a quick overview of the present and future of the Celtic people and show the different circumstance in which they live.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Safety Conscious Scotland

Scotland's streets safer under the SNP

The SNP in government have helped people feel safer in their communities according to the latest Scottish Household Survey.
The survey has recorded a record high percentage of people who think their  neighbourhood is a good or very good place to live and shows some of the  lowest ever levels of concern over anti-social behaviour alongside high  levels of neighbourhood safety.

Satisfaction with local public services such as schools, healthcare and transport is also up 5% on 2007/08.

Commenting on the survey SNP MSP for Livingston Angela Constance said:

“The SNP is committed to improving public services and building safer communities.

“This survey supports the achievements of the SNP in Government such as  putting over 1000 additional police on the streets, cutting crime rates to  the lowest level for 30 years and ensuring more people are locked up and  locked up for longer.  It is measures like this that are ensuring people  feel safe in their communities and that their communities are good places  to live.

“While these results show that while there is always more to be done, particularly in tackling rowdy behaviour by cracking down on alcohol and in our more deprived areas, we are making real progress across the country  in reducing anti-social behaviour, helping people feel safer on their  streets and delivering good quality public services."

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The End of the Party

Nick Clegg says...
“The Labour Party has become consumed by collective bile towards ... the Liberal Democrats. That portrays a rather nasty arrogance. They can’t believe that [we] could have done anything but fall into line with them. I get the impression, listening to the juvenile vitriol of the leadership candidates, that they can’t believe the Liberal Democrats decided to make up their own minds. I just think their leadership contest has been very dull and very dispiriting. You get the impression that none of them is up to the task of asking what’s happened to them as a party and to Britain. They seem strangely conservative, if I dare say it.”

On Military Occupations

Of the IRA and the Afghan war

John R. MacArthur is publisher of Harper’s Magazine and author of the book You Can’t Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America. This column originally appeared in the August 18, 2010 Providence Journal.
SAG HARBOR, N.Y.—I know it was supposed to recall the drama of Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg, but when WikiLeaks jolted Washington last month with its “revelations” about the Afghan debacle, I was disappointed.
This isn’t to minimize the courage of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and the leaker, or leakers, who gave him the documents. I was pleased to see The New York Times, so badly tarnished by its biased reporting in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, help amplify the news. It took guts. I hope that more Ellsberg types will surface in the patriotic mission of providing their fellow Americans with more facts than they usually get from the politicians and the press.
But there was something unrevealing about the actual information that came out. Did we not recognize the incompetence of Hamid Karzai’s Potemkin army? Didn’t we know that many innocent civilians have been killed by unthinking American bombs and terrified American soldiers? Are we really surprised that the Pakistanis are playing a double, or even triple game with Karzai and the Taliban? Does it amaze us that the guerrillas have weapons more sophisticated than land mines and rifles?
Something else troubled me about the ritual exposure of “secret” documents — and the government’s ritual denunciation of the leakers — that brought to mind not Saigon and its infamous bubble of denial but Northern Ireland, which I visited in early March 1983. There, in the midst of a low-intensity civil war, I learned a more powerful lesson than any “secret” document could teach about the causes of violence in Afghanistan.
I had decided to go to Belfast at the end of a trip I had made to report on Michael Flannery, the elderly New York-based leader of NORAID, the American branch of the Provisional IRA, who had been named grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in spite of — or because of — his acquittal on federal gunrunning charges. New York’s Irish establishment was in an uproar, with its most prominent members — Cardinal Terrence Cooke, Sen. Patrick Moynihan, and former Gov. Hugh Carey — vowing not to appear on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral when Flannery passed by. I spent many hours with Flannery and liked him, even though I had little sympathy with IRA terrorism or overly sentimental Irish-American support for “reunification” between the overwhelmingly Catholic Republic and its Protestant-dominated, British-ruled neighbor to the north. While I supported the civil-rights struggle of the Catholic minority in Ulster, I tended to agree with Noel Quinn, a Dublin taxi driver and a Catholic, whom I interviewed for my profile of Flannery: “It’s easy to be patriotic and warlike when you’re 3,000 miles away. I frankly feel I’ve more in common with the English working man than I have with the Irishman in the States who gets drunk at a bar and throws money into the hat for the IRA.”
But none of my preconceptions prepared me for the Catholic ghetto of West Belfast. Ushered along my journalistic route by Flannery’s network of IRA contacts, I found myself entering Sinn Fein headquarters through locked, double metal gates that brought to mind a fortress or a prison. My youthful tour guide’s hard face matched the mood of this unadorned bunker — the IRA’s political front, though legal, had all the grim aspects of a clandestine guerrilla movement. Nobody on the staff was smiling, and it wasn’t just because of the routine frisking that I and everybody else who visited certain parts of Belfast had to endure at the hands of the widely hated Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Outside, as my host accompanied me along the Falls Road, I witnessed a principal cause of those hard faces. While we discussed “the troubles,” a British Army armored vehicle rumbled by us, braked abruptly, and disgorged red-bereted members of the elite Parachute Regiment.
Brandishing automatic weapons, the soldiers quickly dropped into ready position, aiming their guns at some middle distance and doing circular sweeps of the immediate surroundings. For the pedestrians on the sidewalk, including women and children, the point was clear: Her Majesty’s Government was reminding the Catholic rebels and their families who really ruled the neighborhood that its agents were prepared to shoot if anyone dared say the contrary.
For me, being only partly informed, the impact was somewhat different. I remember saying to myself, “I’m standing in the middle of a foreign military occupation.” It didn’t matter that the soldiers were white and spoke English, or that the Protestant majority wanted them there. For the Catholics in the Falls Road, the British Army was as alien as the Red Army was in Kandahar province in the 1980s and the American and British armies are today. You didn’t have to approve of the IRA’s cruelty and violence to understand perfectly their cry of “Brits out!” You don’t have to like the Taliban’s opposition to Western-style feminism to comprehend their drive to rid their country of armed foreigners in uniforms.
Next time you hear Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or Christiane Amanpour try to justify the reckless stupidity of the Afghan war by invoking human rights or international law, try to imagine how the local citizens might feel if British soldiers were patrolling the streets of Boston, Washington or Austin — to enforce, let’s say, a ruling by the International Criminal Court against U.S. soldiers for atrocities committed in Iraq against women and children. It’s no secret that many Americans would reach for a gun. You won’t find that sort of information in the WikiLeaks documents, and it isn’t classified.

Campaign for a United

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Scots Stance on Libyan's Release

Scots back Government over US Megrahi claims

People in Scotland overwhelmingly support the position that the decision on the Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Al Megrahi, who was released from prison on compassionate grounds, was made for the right reasons, that the Scottish Government were right to refuse requests to explain the decision to the US Senate, and that it was right that Scotland’s Justice Secretary made the decision according to a YouGov poll for the SNP.
The poll of 1,212 people, conducted on the 17th and 18th August shows:
•       72% of Scots agree that the Scottish Government is accountable to the Scottish Parliament, not US politicians, and was right to decline to attend the US Senate hearings.
•       only 14% agree with the US Senators that oil industry lobbying was played a part in the decision, a figure dwarfed by the 54% who believe that Al Megrahi was released solely in accordance with Scots law.
•       76% of those polled think it was right that the decision on Al Megrahi was made by the Scottish Government, and not the UK.
Welcoming the result SNP Depute Leader and Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“This poll demonstrates overwhelmingly that the people of Scotland believe that the Justice Secretary took the decision for the right reasons, that it was right for the Scottish Government and no one else to take the decision, and that it was right not to answer to a US Senate hearing on the issue.
“The Scottish Government is accountable to the Scottish Parliament and people, and their continued support for the Scottish Government in taking what was clearly a very difficult decision is important and extremely welcome.”
The details of the poll are:
1)      A US senate committee invited representatives of the Scottish government to appear before their committee to explain their decision. The Scottish government declined to attend, on the grounds that they are accountable to the Scottish Parliament, not to US politicians. Do you agree or disagree with Scottish Government’s decision not to attend?
Agree – they were right not to attend       72%
Disagree – they should have attended    20%
Don’t Know                           7%
2)      Some US Senators have argued that commercial lobbying of the UK Government by BP played a role in the release of Al-Megrahi, while the Scottish Government insists that the Scottish Government was not lobbied by BP and that the Scottish Justice Secretary’s decision to grant compassionate release to Al-Megrahi was based solely on the rules and regulations of Scots Law. Regardless of your own view on the decision, which of the following best reflects your view?
The US Senators are correct – BP Lobbying played a part in the release of Al-Megrahi   14%
The Scottish Government is correct – Al Megrahi was released solely in line with Scotland Law 54%
Neither 11%
Don’t Know 21%
3)Al-Megrahi was convicted in a Scottish Court and served his prison sentence in Scotland. Regardless of whether you think Al-Megrahi should or should not have been released, who do you think should have made the decision on whether or not to release him?
The Scottish Justice Secretary  76%
A Minister in the UK Government 13%
Don’t Know                      11%
Total sample size was 1,212 Scottish adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 18th August 2010.


Yet Iain Gray, the Labour leader in the Scottish parliament, said today on a television interview that Scots overwhelming oppose the release of Al-Megrahi and think he should have been kept in a Scottish prison.
Someone has got their facts wrong.... who could it be?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

New Blog on the Block


Within the World but not of the World

Tibetan Buddhist retreat in Ireland

Alyson Gagne
Wednesday 09 July 2008 11:53 GMT
Article history

he suggested we adopt the "unmoveable and majestic" posture of a mountain.

A Tibetan Buddhist retreat is the perfect place to unwind and escape everyday stressPlus, as Janine Israeldiscovers, you only need go as far as Ireland.
Sometimes on holiday, it's difficult to fully switch off, but here we were, trying to knock the bejesus out of the cognitive parts of our brain without the aid of alcohol or narcotics.

The mind naturally has thoughts, just as the ocean naturally has waves," explained the meditation teacher mellifluously as we sat cross-legged and still, staring out the window at the vast Atlantic.

As part of our transformation into natural-born Buddhas, he suggested we adopt the "unmoveable and majestic" posture of a mountain.


Getting thereRyan Air, Easyjet and Aer Lingus fly direct to Cork city from London. Swansea Cork Ferries operate a 10-hour crossing.
Dzogchen Beara Buddhist retreat centre is 144km west of Cork city. A hostel dorm bed is £9.50 a night. See for travel, accommodation and retreat information."
We were hardly bereft of inspiration. The Dzogchen Beara Buddhist retreat centre - spectacularly situated on a remote cliff top on Ireland's rugged Beara Peninsula - is surrounded by boggy, rock-studded mountains. From my morning walk, I knew them to be covered with sheep poo, magic mushrooms and the small pink and yellow flowers that were now decorating my hair.

I sat up straight and focused on the horizon. A ray of sun was breaking through the clouds, shining on a distant patch of sea. In the summer, this area is a breeding and feeding ground for dolphins and whales. You can sit in the meditation room and watch them play.

"The mind will naturally settle, like a glass of muddy water left to stand," the teacher said, assuring us this was no boot camp-style meditation session patrolled by the 'no-thought' police. He directed us to keep our eyes open and our "senses alert" and stretch whenever we needed to.

Things are pretty cruisy at Dzogchen Beara. A Tibetan Buddhist centre under the spiritual direction of Sogyal Rinpoche - the author of The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying - most people who come here are burnt-out city-slickers in search of awe-inspiring scenery, tranquility and wide open spaces. The free, twice-daily guided meditation sessions are a bonus you can take or leave.

Palm trees, fuchsias and an array of sub-tropical shrubs surround the centre, and the small, white-washed buildings overlooking the blue ocean give the place a Greek island feel. Buddhist prayer flags flap in the breeze and walking tracks lead off to rolling heathland, secluded forests, rivers, waterfalls and craggy coastline that drops suddenly into the sea and reveals sweeping views out to distance peninsulas. This is west Cork at its wildest and finest.

Adjacent to the Buddhist centre is a basic, cottage-style hostel complete with men's and women's dorms, a large kitchen and communal area, a dairy-allergic" pet cat and a worryingly Zen attitude to the bee hives in the roof. Also on site and available for rent are three self-catering cottages with prime sea and sky views.

Throughout the year, the centre runs short retreats on topics such as "discovering the true nature of love", "finding peace" and "living up to death".

For Saturday night kicks, the centre screens free video lectures by Sogyal Rinpoche, but if you prefer your Saturday night enlightenment served in a pint glass, Dzogchen Beara is only 7km from Castletownbere, a busy fishing port and the Beara Peninsula's largest town.

The heart and soul of Castletownbere is McCarthy's Bar, a knees-up Irish pub, complete with one of the country's last matchmaking booths and a programme of live traditional music three nights a week.

A 20-minute stroll out of town brings you to the well-preserved Derreenataggart Stone Circle, one of the hundreds of megalithic ceremonial sites that pepper the Beara Peninsula.

While County Cork can confidently wear Ireland's culinary crown, there ain't much in the way of tastebud-tantalising restaurants in these parts. People staying at Dzogchen Beara tend to stock up on food and cook for themselves. Castletownbere has a fish shop, supermarket and a small gourmet delicatessen. Foodies, however, will drool over Mannings Emporium in Ballylickey, on the main Bantry to Glengarriff road. Waving the flag for all things Cork, Mannings specialises in local farmhouse cheese, fresh bread, handmade chocolate, organic fruit and veggies as well as imported sausages and New Zealand wine.

Beara Peninsula 

Occupying parts of counties Cork and Kerry, Beara tends to be overshadowed by its dramatic, yet commercial, neighbouring peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, which attracts busloads of leprechaun-spotting, bog- trotting Americans.

Beara is still somewhat undiscovered by the tourist hordes. In the summer there's beaches to laze on, diving at shipwrecks and plenty of kayaking, sailing and deep-sea fishing. Hiking is another major draw, with nature reserves to explore as well as hill climbing (the 684 metre high Hungry Hill with its 60m waterfall is a treat). There's also the epic Beara Way, a 196km walk that loops around the peninsula.

Cycling is a popular way to get around the 137km coastal road, although you'd want a firm belief in reincarnation before joining the cars and trucks that rip around the narrow bends. The jewel in the route is the sweeping valley views from the Healy Pass. Public transport is pathetic around Beara, so it helps to have a set of wheels or a lucky hitching thumb.

Island life

A handful of islands are accessible from the Beara Peninsula, with Garinish Island in Bantry Bay the most visited. Open from March to October and a short boat ride from the lovely town of Glengarriff, Garinish is a 15-hectare formal Italian garden. The warming Gulf Stream allows lush, sub-tropical vegetation to flourish. Late spring is the best time to catch the rhododendrons and azaleas showing off and any spot of sunshine is likely to bring out the barking, basking seals. Dursey Island, at the peninsula's end, is a bird and whale sanctuary. Only 250m offshore, you'll need to brave the wooden cable car to get there. It can carry three people or one cow at a time, with livestock getting first dibs

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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Buddhist Remains in War Zone

Afghan archaeologists find Buddhist site as war rages

Archaeologists in Afghanistan, where Taliban Islamists are fighting the Western-backed government, have uncovered Buddhist-era remains in an area south of Kabul, an official said on Tuesday.Skip related content
"There is a temple, stupas, beautiful rooms, big and small statues, two with the length of seven and nine meters, colourful frescos ornamented with gold and some coins," said Mohammad Nader Rasouli, head of the Afghan Archaeological Department.
"Some of the relics date back to the fifth century (AD). We have come across signs that there are items maybe going back to the era before Christ or prehistory," he said.
"We need foreign assistance to preserve these and their expertise to help us with further excavations."
The excavation site extends over 12 km (7.5 miles) in the Aynak region of Logar province just south of Kabul, where China is mining copper ore as part of its multi-billion dollar investments in the Central Asian country.
Rasouli said the mining work had not harmed the sites -- which were known but had not been examined in detail -- but smugglers managed to loot and destroy some relics before the government excavation work began last year.
Government and foreign troops are battling an insurgency led by the radical Taliban movement which destroyed Buddhist statues at Bamyan during its five-year control of the mountainous country from 1996 to 2001, viewing the monuments as an affront to Islam.
Many antiquities and historical sites were destroyed or pillaged during decades of civil war and foreign interventions.
Now almost entirely Muslim, Afghanistan has seen eras in its long history when other faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism were widely practised.
Rasouli said the government did not have the resources to move the relics from the remote area, which has seen some clashes during the insurgency, but hoped to build a museum there instead.
(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Andrew Hammond and Sanjeev Miglani)

Monday, 16 August 2010

English Politics: the Gateway to Oblivion

Labour's Happy Left Turn

Guido Fawkes | August 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Tags: Labour LeadershipLabour Party | Categories: default | URL:

Peter Mandelson warned recently that the leadership candidates were lurching to the left. He got no thanks for it. He can see that Labour is in denial, Alastair Campbell actually denies Labour lost the election. Much of the party is just in denial.
Diane Abbott is unashamedly of the hard-left, Andy Burnham says he is a socialist, Ed Balls is a deficit denier, Ed Miliband spouts meaningless nonsense "I pledge to ensure that we are a party of women as well as men" and left-wing clap-trap non-stop as he gloats about the burial of New Labour.Even Blairite David Miliband is talking left.
All good news for those of us who want to see the Labour Party become electorally irrelevant. That Labour membership is apparently rising as lefties return is great news. They'll demand that Labour "fights the cuts" when only a few months ago Labour was planning £50 billion of cuts. Blairite realists will be condemned as "collaborators", they'll accuse life-long liberals of being reactionary Tories. They will demand support and Labour Party solidarity with Unite strikers recking people's summer holidays.Good news for those of us who want Labour to become the irrelevant third party. Guido is certain that many Labour activists will enjoy themselves far more in opposition.